The Soapbox: Why does it feel like I don’t have time for an MMO when I really do?

MMOs, time, and freedom examined

    
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This guest Soapbox was commissioned through MassivelyOP’s Patreon program and is authored by Steve “Sray” Blouin, a name our longtime commenters will surely recognize from his participation in our community over the last many years. The opinions here represent the views of our guest author and not necessarily Massively OP itself. Enjoy!

I recently had a couple thoughts about complaints of how modern MMOs, particularly at “endgame,” are “too time-consuming” or “feel too much like jobs.” A few days ago, I picked up DC Universe Online and was having fun leveling up a new character. I was quite enjoying myself, right up until I hit the level cap of 30. At this point I looked at all of the stuff that suddenly was there for me to do, and I said, “Who the hell has that sort of time?” I then promptly logged off, and I haven’t really been able to get back into it since.

But there’s this thing bugging me: When I said, “Who the hell has that sort of time,” I had been playing the game for about four hours straight at that point, and what I did upon logging off was go to my TV and start watching the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (for those unaware, the extended versions all clock in over three and an half hours). Pretty clearly, I have that sort of time. And yet I somehow felt that I didn’t.

Here’s the first thing I realized: As a general rule, anyone who sits down with the intention of playing a MMORPG probably has at least an hour or two to spare. In many MMOs, even raids – generally the lengthiest content in any MMO – can readily be broken down into hour-long chunks via checkpoints for organized groups to resume and complete over several days. Furthermore, statistically, most adults today actually have more free time than at any other point in history. The number of entertainment choices we have available to us is a staggering testament to how much leisure time we actually have. If you’re watching four hours’ worth of Game of Thrones or Grey’s Anatomy on a Wednesday night, you’ve got time for an MMORPG’s grind.

So, as someone who makes “ain’t nobody got time for that” statements on a frequent basis, I have to question how true the “too time-consuming” complaint really is.

My subsequent realization was that if gamers in general actually do have the amounts of time available that these games ask of them (barring those larger-scale activities that are designed to take several hours), then perhaps our complaints about time and MMOs are not really about time consumption but about something else.

“The problem wasn’t the amount of time it was suddenly asking me to spend but how it was asking me to spend that time.”
What really pushed me away from DCUO (and many other MMOs, I realize in hindsight) wasn’t the amount of time it was suddenly asking me to spend but how it was asking me to spend that time. Through the leveling process, I had largely just been running around to see the sights of Gotham and Metropolis, getting exploration and investigation feats, doing quests as I felt up to it, and generally just goofing around.

But upon hitting max level, I was suddenly bombarded with a huge number of activities that were mandatory not only in order to continue character advancement (even if I didn’t care about continued character power progression) but simply to have any sort of meaningful interaction with the game at that point. This made the goofing-around activities I had been doing largely meaningless within the greater context of the game; worse, it took what I had done for fun and made it mandatory. It was stifling to me.

So perhaps the complaints of MMO endgame being “too time-consuming” and “feels like a job” don’t actually come from a place of players lacking in time (although that’s still a fair criticism of certain activities); maybe it’s a criticism of the lack of freedom in present day MMOs. I’d enjoyed DCUO while leveling how I wanted to, but at the max level there was no longer any choice: If I wanted to continue to advance my character, I had to do the activities laid out before me, as they were intended, and if I didn’t want to do that, there was nothing left for me in the game.

Perhaps the issue that I, and others like me, have with present day MMOs is not the amount of time they ask for, but rather how they require me to spend that time, along with the fact that those activities often do not feel like a fair trade-off for many of non-gaming activities that one would have to forego in order to participate in them.

Originally, the “reward” for hitting “max level” in games like Star Wars Galaxies or City of Heroes was essentially “being done”: Power progression ended at max level, as did any sort of gear grind. This afforded players unlimited freedom within the game and the power to utilize that freedom as they choose.

But in many of today’s MMOs, the “reward” for the player having made his way through the leveling content is being handed a million things to do – things that must be done in order to notch up incremental stat increases, things you get in order to become stronger against new foes that are balanced against your new stats anyway (all of which makes the point of the endgame stat progression a bit hazy). Even many supposedly optional activities ultimately become non-optional: Sandbox elements like housing are frequently tied into endgame balance and/or progression in many MMOs, which turns something that was supposed to be just a fun thing to do into yet another task that must be done. Essentially, the leveling process simply gives way to more leveling, but it’s a less satisfying version of leveling since it exists simply for the point of existing. Any choice of how to pursue your time at max level is stripped out of the modern MMORPG; your only real choice is which treadmill you want to run on to pursue what feels like little more than an infinite leveling loop.

At this point I want to say that there is nothing wrong enjoying with the infinite vertical progression of present-day MMORPGs. I consider people who like modern endgame loops to be more fortunate individuals than I, since they are better served by the current market. But it is also clear that there are a large number of gamers out there who not only find this sort of gameplay loop to be unenjoyable but realize that it actively discourages them from playing MMOs.

I suppose what this comes down to is that present-day MMO endgame content is made to be a form of progression, and that progression comes along after you’ve already spent as much time as many single-player RPGs take to complete their primary campaigns (30 to 40 hours at a minimum for most MMOs) simply to progress your character to max level, all in order to pursue what amounts to even more leveling with absolutely no alternative if you want to continue playing at the max level. What frustrates me with MMOs today – and other online games following MMO style infinite vertical progression – is the lack of an “end”: a place at which the player has reached the pinnacle of any sort of power progression, and now has the choice of using it as a logical jumping off point (like retiring or rolling alts) or enjoying the freedom to just wander and pursue personal goals. Instead of getting the emotional release of having hit a sort of conclusion and being given our “freedom,” we’re confronted with infinite tasks and infinite progression, which leave us feeling as if we’ll never be “done.”

And this is precisely what creates that job-like feeling and the “ain’t nobody got time for that” mentality (which is probably a hell of a lot less true for many of us than we think).

When it comes to MMORPGs, I don’t think I’m alone in looking for an endgame that isn’t just more progression. I’m looking for an endgame that exists as the reason for having gone through all that progression. I want something… different. I don’t know exactly what “different” is, how it works, or even what it looks like, but I do know that it starts with an ending.

We’d like to thank Steve for supporting MassivelyOP and for his thought-provoking essay!
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Anton Mochalin

This is artificial; MMO publishers want you to spend more time with their games because they need concurrent player count to be MMOs. Some are more proficient at manipulating you into spending time with a game and some are less but the business is just the same: to artificially lengthen any activity you do in the game as much as possible without it getting boring. But as the boredom threshold is different for different people we can easily find ourselves passing it.

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Castagere Shaikura

Raids daily’s or PVP as end game content always made me hate getting to end game in MMO’s. I always hated getting to the max level in them. Well in the modern MMO’s anyways. I remember back in the days of Anarchy Online when you hit level 200 there was content still for you to do and most of it was like rewarding you for reaching LVL 200 because it was not easy to do back then. You could still hit a mission terminal at LVL 200 and move that difficulty slider all the way over and see if you could survive that mission and get sweet rewards.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Yes, if you’ve just sat down for 4 hours playing a game, you definitely have MMORPG time. That’s you though, many of us really don’t have that kind of gaming time. I often sit down to play an MMORPG and have under an hour of free time available. Yet there are a lot of MMORPGs that work with that sort of tiny amount of time, even in their end games. Not the grinders, not every game, but a lot of them do work with tiny amounts of free play time.

Star Trek Online in fact works if you only have about 30 minutes to spare. You can get in, get warped to a story episode, do the quest and finish it out and be back offline in 30 minutes. It’s an alternative to watching 30 minutes of TV when you have half an hour free to play a game. Many people do instances for end game in STO and those are very quick to get in with the way they have it set up and play through fast as well.

ESO is sort of like that too. You don’t have a nice little list that makes everything easy to see and go to quickly like STO has, but you can take part in these self-contained story quests in ESO in a fairly short amount of time. Though you’re talking about endgame content, and I don’t even know what ESO’s endgame content is. There just is so much to go through in all these different areas of the world, crazy amounts of quests and content, I never ended up getting to their end game.

Speaking of TV, that’s a much different thing. When we watch TV, we don’t have to be active or that engaged. We can be doing other stuff at the same time. We can be doing things in the house that need to be done, catching up on stuff from work, half snoozing and just letting our bodies and minds mostly rest, playing with our real life pets, engaging with the kids, etc. Being able to watch a few hours of TV, for many of us is not a comparable thing to being able to be engaged in playing a game for a few hours.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

The fact that some MMOs do have some content that enables relatively short play sessions doesn’t change the fact that overall the genre is designed to be somewhat time consuming, but I do address the perception issue when I pointed out that many MMOs actually let you break down even raids into manageable time chunks. The idea of “I don’t have the time for an MMO” is often actually more about the perception than the reality.

However, I think you might have misunderstood what I was saying: many of do have more time available than we might think, but how MMOs (or many games in general) ask us to spend that time don’t necessarily make the trade off of other activities worthwhile. Like I said, if you’re watching four hours of TV on a Wednesday night, you’ve got the time for an MMO; but that doesn’t mean that you have the inclination, and game design has some part in that. Human beings don’t value all experiences the same, and that four hours watching TV is something many of us will value more highly over four hours in a video game doing a repetitive task for some marginal stat upgrade.

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angrakhan

For me the issue isn’t so much a lack of time it’s the lack of margin for yet another obligation. I won’t enumerate all my weekly obligations but between them all the idea of throwing a weekly raid commitment on top of it all just seems a bit absurd and, frankly, irresponsible. It’s about priorities. Every priority I have that I place above MMOs I don’t regret at all. They are things like my marriage, being a good dad, being a good friend or employee. I’m not giving up any of that so I can camp out by the bank and link my fancy gear in general chat. Frankly if my obituary was nothing but a laundry list of sever firsts and epic gear I would consider my life a complete waste. Thus, I have a hard time commiting large chunks of time to working on either.

I play games that ask for time in 15 minute increments. I like games I can drop in or out as needed and not ruin everyone else’s experience. Games like ARPGs, looter shooters, and small squad games such as The Division or Destiny 2 is where you will find me spending my time these days. If the MMO industry wants to find a way to get me back into the MMO fold they will need to find mechanics that make their games appealing to me because right now they just aren’t. I’m totally ok if they don’t as well. I’m certainly not their demographic. I have zero expectation they will spend a dime to cater to me. I used to off tank molten core back when that meant something, but these days the thought of that is repulsive to me.

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Johnny Quantum

That’s why sandbox games – do what you want when you want – have initial appeal for me. But then game mechanics like having to eat, drink etc. make it seem like work (or real life). Also the PVP focus and non-permanency – losing hard earned progress when you die, are other turn offs. So I’m back to MMO RPG games…

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EmberStar

I’ve seen a variation on this comment before, the part about “non permanency.” It confuses me greatly. I own and still sometimes play both Ark and Conan Exiles. And in either of them the penalty for getting killed is probably smaller than in most MMOs. If it was a creature/NPC that did it, you die and respawn at the base.

Your stuff stays on your body. You might potentially lose your gear, and in Ark you probably lost whatever creature you were riding on (since except for narfing raptors most things can’t pull you off of your mount except by killing it first.) There is no XP loss, no “resurrection sickness” that cuts all the effectiveness of your skills in half. You respawn in your underwear and have to run back to where you fell if you want your inventory back.

Other than the really “high tier” armors that usually require rare materials with a certain level of grinding cost, your gear in a survival game is basically disposable anyway. And a simple way of avoiding that is… don’t wear Tek Armor to fight an Alpha level boss if you think there’s a decent chance you might not win.

I can understand the dislike for anything PVP related though. I play both games exclusively offline and in single player. Part of it is dislike for PVP, and mistrust of any kind of privately run servers. A big part of it is simply the amount of time I spend playing any particular game. Most survival games have a “decay” mechanic to clear out abandoned structures and pets. If you can’t log in for a week, your stuff is probably not going to be there when you get back. But my understanding is that a number of MMOs have something similar, such as charging upkeep on housing plots.

I am mostly just curious where this perception of “lack of permanency” is coming from, I guess.

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Johnny Quantum

To play ‘offline and in single player’ do you need your own server?

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EmberStar

No, that’s what “offline” means. It runs as a single player game on my system. Since the game isn’t running when I’m not playing it time does stop passing when I’m not playing. This is different than on a server. However the rest of both games’ mechanics are otherwise unchanged. The only progress I lose on dying is whatever my character was wearing or had in inventory, and probably whichever pet / mount was with me at the time.

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NeoWolf

I think it is less a Time issue and more an Endgame as a concept in a Persistent world is just flawed from the get go and one developers have never really spent much time or thought to address…

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Jim Bergevin Jr

That’s why I hate games that rush you through the leveling process, either out if the gate, or later on after initial release (like SWTOR). I enjoy the leveling process in RPGs and dislike being speedleveled to max level and forced into an end game that I may not want to participate in.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m with you. I can only have fun when doing activities by my own choice; as soon as they feel forced, though, any enjoyment I could have doing them vanishes (and, if I don’t have something else optional, enjoyable, and that feels worthwhile to do in the game, then I will leave the game over lack of content, even if there are still thousands of hours of further content left).

Basically, if some game designer succeeds in dictating how players must have fun with their game, I will utterly hate that game. That regardless of budget, quality, scenario, where it stands in the casual-hardcore axis, etc.

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Arktouros

The ugly business of how the MMO sausage is made is that endless progression is the nasty bit that keeps you coming back for more. The big difference is that good or great MMO games will hide that from you and obfuscate it in various ways under content you enjoy and bad ones will just shove that endless grind in doing things you have a low interest in doing.

However one of the issues any genre of game faces is that as time goes on people become experienced with these kinds tricks and tactics that are part of their design. We know why they cram in daily quests that offer chase rewards. We know why they have daily login rewards. The more they keep us logging in the more likely we are to keep our subscriptions going and spending in their cash shops. So now when we see this barrage of “stuff” to do it’s easier to put it into the context of why the game was designed that way and it becomes less appealing.

This is a big reason why I have stuck with Black Desert for the last 4 years now. I can play the game the way I want and be successful and make progress in the game. I don’t have to go do boring ass daily quests or grind dungeons I don’t really want to do a thousand times trying to chase a drop for progression.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Yeah, the reasons for infinitely leveling loop are well documented, and make sense; but I supposed my issues arise out of the fact that the design paradigm is short sighted: the very nature of the design eventually pushes players out, but there’s nothing being made for those who’ve been pushed out the door. It’s not that game developers need to stop making infinite grinders: they just need to start making games for those who’ve moved on from infinite grinders.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

I don’t think they know how. I think the only game that came close to offering the thing we’re looking for was the original Defiance – before they went and changed to a vertical progression system.

Back when the genre was young, there were only a handful of offerings and people were ingrained with the system because it was what kept them subbed and playing. Now it’s more of a churn and burn. It’s OK if someone stops playing the game, because there’s someone new who justed started playing. When that person quits, there’s someone else to replace them. It’s one of the unfortunate side effects of F2P, but one the devs themselves have created, and not necessarily one from the business model itself.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

I think they absolutely do know how, that’s why I pointed to the early years of SWG and CoH: a big part of the reason why these games keep getting used as example of “why can’t we have more stuff like this” by so many columnists here (mostly Bree, but others too) is precisely because they weren’t made from the infinite grind blueprint: “top level” meant you were done with any sort of power progression, and your time was yours. And the reasoning of “people won’t play if they’re not constantly getting incremental increases of power” is made factually wrong by the existence these games: hundreds of thousands of people continued to play those games for years without some progression treadmill; hell, we’ve seen that thousands of people have found a way to keep playing these games for nearly a decade after their cancellations precisely because they offer what modern MMOs don’t.

I’m not one of those people who wants to go back to “vanilla” or “old school” versions of MMOs, as it only trades off today’s problems for those of yesterday, which makes the whole thing a wash. But I absolutely believe that we can go back to those games, look at what they did, look at what has been lost over the years with many improvements that have been made, and ask “how can we get that back?”

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Arktouros

Defiance was always a vertical progression game, but it was so vertical most people didn’t understand that. Like people got to EGO 300-500 and wondered why there was no significant increase, but the fact was you had to really go all out and hit EGO 1600 or so to reach the next tier of progression where you started getting extra stats on same equality equipment.

All they did later was reduce that so the average player could see the vertical progression in action.

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Arktouros

Counter point to that however is that you can see what happens in games once you stop giving people ways to progress in games. Whether it be a lack of new dungeon content in WOW for new raid gear to progress on (items as progression) or there being hard XP caps on progression people just stop playing games once they feel they’re “done” with the current content. That was the biggest blunder for SWTOR for example, which easily launched with the most game-complete MMO to date with fully engrossed story line across multiple characters, dungeon based story lines, dungeon gear, heroic dungeon gear, raid, and even PvP gear and sets. However they mismanaged it all and people could cap out in the first 30 days and be “done” with their game and so went the people.

The people who have moved on from infinite grinders have, in my opinion, moved on from gaming but haven’t come to terms with it yet. If you understand how the sausage is made and have lost your appetite for sausage then it’s really more on you to figure out what else you’re going to eat not so much the butcher’s job to give you something other than sausage.

The Weeb formerly known as Sray
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The Weeb formerly known as Sray

Ending vertical progression doesn’t mean ending things to do and leaving players with nothing but mindless roaming around. Additionally, no online game can continue without steady content updates, and at no point did I ever say that they can. You bring up SWTOR as an example, but the problem wasn’t that there was no more progression in the game when it launched” rather problem was that the game launched with very little to do, and once players finished what was there they were left waiting months for a thimble of new stuff: they didn’t necessarily need progression, they needed things to do. As I pointed out elsewhere here SWG and CoH had hundreds of thousands of players continued playing for years without more vertical progression/grinding at the level cap. People sink thousands of hours into games like Civilization where no continuing progression exists whatsoever. Plus, you completely overlook games like Minecraft where people run around just “having fun” for years without any sort of mandatory progression system. So the idea of gaming requiring mandatory infinite grind is clearly false.

Ultimately, it kind of is a butcher’s job to provide more variety than just sausage: anyone who has a steady diet of just one thing is going to get sick of it; and any butcher that only sells sausage will eventually run out of clients. If you run out of an appetite for a single variation of something, it does not mean that it’s your fault that you no longer like that thing: I might not be able to stand grunge rock anymore after having been drowned in it during the 1990s, but I can still love other genres of it: I still love both Motley Crue and The Rolling Stones. So yes, game designers and publishers are on the hook for not preparing for the time that their one design paradigm in online games chews up and spits out players. There are thousands and thousands of gamers out there waving their wallets at game publishers, screaming “give me something other than endless grind”; and there’s no chance that it’s their own fault for not liking grinding.

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Arktouros

I never once said vertical progression is the only kind of grind out there. You can look at Guild Wars 2 as an example of a game that has fairly limited vertical progression but there isn’t a soul out there who has gone after a Legendary that will tell you that it isn’t one big grind.

SWTOR launched with the most game content at launch than any other MMO before it. There was tons to do, it was just all skippable. You didn’t have to do most of the Heroic dungeons because you could go after Tier 2 without needing Tier 1. You could use PvP gear that was as good as Tier 1 or Tier 2 for PvE even. This rendered all that game content they did have in the game useless because there was no incentive (progression wise) to run it and so people didn’t do it.

I don’t talk about other games because we are discussing MMOs. By all means show me the Minecraft MMO and we’ll have a discussion on it. However the very heart of MMOs are progression. It’s what keeps you playing them and coming back each day. When progression ends, people move on either to another genre of game. The only example of games you have that had an end progression literally are both shut down. You can try to attribute their shut downs to other factors and yet none of the companies involved have ever bothered to try to replicate that model.

Actually the butcher doesn’t have to stop serving only sausage and actually there’s been no slow down of clients who like sausage. The biggest games in MMO gaming largely all offer the same themepark, content drip experience and have had no problems remaining wildly successful. They have literally zero issues with the fact you’ve moved on and have zero responsibility to you to offer something else. If you don’t like what’s being served, by all means visit a different place of business. They’re perfectly cool with that.

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

“The people who have moved on from infinite grinders have, in my opinion, moved on from gaming but haven’t come to terms with it yet.”

What. This would only make sense if infinite grinders were the only type of game.

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Arktouros

What. This would only make sense if infinite grinders were the only type of game.

It’s the only type of MMO game, but there’s only so long we can edit posts.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

It’s definitely not. And even inside the MMOs that do focus on infinite grind progression, there are plenty of activities that can hold the attention of people not into that. MMOs exist for them too, and they’re just as much gamers, and MMO gamers, as everyone else.

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Arktouros

I’m funny in that when I say something I like to bring up fact based examples to back up what I’m saying.

I can’t think of a single MMO game that has launched that doesn’t have some form of progression in it. There are a few that lack vertical progression and instead have progression in other ways. However I can’t think of a single MMO that we would gauge as remotely successful that lacks progression in it.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

Except you didn’t do that; you just moved the goalposts from all video games are infinite grinders and people who don’t like that aren’t really gamers to all successful MMOs have some form of progression in them. Gatekeeping and insulting to boot.

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Arktouros

The ugly business of how the MMO sausage is made is that endless progression is the nasty bit that keeps you coming back for more.

So there’s the original “goalpost” that literally says MMOs are based on endless progression, aka: the Infinite grinders that Sray then replied about, in order to keep people coming back to them.

Since we’re on a MMO website discussing the MMO genre of games and I’ve specifically called out MMO games (WOW, SWTOR) when I replied to Sray I didn’t feel the need to quantify further I am talking about MMO games. Apparently this wasn’t the case, and I even self corrected when you asked explaining that I can’t edit my post to clarify.

If it makes you feel better then infinite grinders aren’t the only kind of game out there? Like this isn’t my argument, I am not looking to die on that hill. I just don’t care about it. It’s a tangent based on a misunderstanding.

So moving on to my actual original, quoted, assertion MMO games with endless progression, or as Sray put it as an infinite grinder, is what makes people coming back for more. In other words MMOs only exist as infinite grinders because without that people stop coming back to them. Thus I argue if you are done with progression you are done with MMO gaming, the two are inseparable.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

And this continues to be wrong, oversimplified, and gatekeepy, as any person who logs in for the social experience, for roleplaying and storytelling, for crafting for guildies rather than profit, for creating mods for the community, for building and maintaining guilds and towns and homes, for the thrill of PvP even without rewards, and so on can tell you.

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Arktouros

Good, I was hoping you would bring these people up.

Yes there will always be people who don’t play the game for progression. Some people want to log in for a purely social experience, such as a roleplayer who’s game play loop starts and ends at the local inn. However in that scenario I would argue that person isn’t playing the game and they could be serviced by any various 3D chat rooms with avatars equally the same.

The reason why they don’t do that is simply because their friends are playing the game still and are progressing and taking part in progression but also do side activities such as roleplaying. Thus their other friends login to said game even though they are done with those elements purely from a social perspective. The game itself at that point doesn’t matter, they are beyond it and if their friends moved on from the game I would argue those people wouldn’t inherently log into said game anymore either unless they formed some other sort of social bonds.

However what you can’t have is a MMO who is solely based on and around those people because it ceases to be a MMO. You won’t have a game of nothing but mod makers. You can’t have a game of people who do nothing but craft for other people. Oh someone could certainly make it, whether or not it’d remain open very long is an entirely other matter.

Also gatekeeping is a bit of a ridiculous label in this scenario because I’m not saying anyone can or can’t do anything. I’m simply logically stating that a MMO game without progression in it designed and catered towards those who don’t like any form of progression (no vertical progression, no fashion progression, no building progression, etc) won’t be a MMO anymore. Like if you design a game purely for roleplayers who want to chat in inns and otherwise and lots of people can connect to it are you designing a MMO or a 3d chat room service? Seems more like the later.

Bree Royce
Staff
Bree Royce

The progression gameloop works on people right up until it doesn’t. And then when it doesn’t work anymore, we’re a bit adrift. BDO is one of the few major MMOs that really cater to the adrift.

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Arktouros

I wouldn’t really say I’m adrift as much as I have basically no more tolerance for game play modes that are uninteresting to me. Like I’m done making excuses for developers like, “Oh they’ll fix this issue, they can’t leave X in it’s current state.” and then just continuing to do things I dislike in some vain hope it’ll all get worked out in the end.

What BDO is great at is that it’s amazing at making multiple ways of playing it’s game extremely viable. Like I can 100% play the game as a pure crafter. That’s so actually rare in gaming to have a crafter on par with fighter/grinder types. I mean I literally play BDO like a Stardew Valley game where I manage my workers, shuffle around resources, cook and alchemy my way into money and transport crates and goods to turn in for money. What’s mind blowing is this isn’t like some second class citizen either, it’s all fully supported and an entirely actually viable way to play the game and my gear is on par with some of the best in game.

And that freedom to actually play a game how I want to play it and have it be actually viable rather than just some forgotten niche play style is simply rare in the MMO market. Like imagine if “play your way” wasn’t just some marketing jargon. Just a total shame about the soul crushing, next level predatory cash shop practices.

creationguru
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creationguru

This is why I see 2 possible solutions to this problem. First would be being back longer leveling process hell my first character in UO took me almost a year to max out and th as t was when I was much younger and had like 4x the time to play. Second would be that in end game MMO RPG could adopt something like what Destiny 2 has done in that still let me accumulate XP but let me use it for other thing like gear tokens, gold, etc. This would allow me to do what ever I would like todo at end game to keep the progression going and not be funneled into what the meta or devs feel I should be doing

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Arktouros

I have always been far more interested in infinite character progression than the “items as progression” that was introduced with WOW so you’ll get no arguments from me! One of my all time favorite games was Asheron’s Call with it’s near infinite character progression.

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TomTurtle

The standard MMO formula has gotten stale for many people as evidenced by the genre’s waning popularity in the past several years. I think it’s fair to say what you mentioned here is a part of that.

World of Warcraft’s endgame design of infinite vertical progression came to mind when reading this. I’ve seen many complaints about having no fixed end to the gear grind come up repeatedly, though I’d be curious to see what the statistics Blizzard has access to in order to compare what people say and what people do.

Grinds like that can only go so far before people burn out on those types of gameplay loops. The genre is in dire need of things to freshen it up. It’s a vague thing to say, but it’s a developer’s job to figure these things out. And even then, it isn’t so difficult to approach as there are concrete examples of different types of activities from previous MMOs and from non-MMOs that have been barely used.

Of course there are a number of reasons, not always obvious ones, contributing to this problem such as technological limitations or playing it safe to appease investors.

Regardless, it feels like we’re in a wait-and-see time period of wanting to see what the next big thing will be that actually progresses the MMO genre in a meaningful enough way to catch on.